What Freedom Means to Me

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me/ I am a free human being with an independent will” postulated Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre. I will tell you what freedom is to me. No Fear. Walk where your heart leads you. Sans all restrictions and burdens. And yet Voltaire averred,” Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains” . Societal, Familial, Collegial, Organizational to say nothing of Religious and Ideological … pressures abound from all directions. Even my own history & experiences serve to bamboozle me. Slowly Freedom becomes a chimera we all admire & aspire for… but like the horizon, it fades further as we move towards it. And, those who do not move, do not notice the chains that bind them. And thus remain in the false impression that they are free!!! So, immediately after India celebrated it’s 75 years of Independence, I am sitting down to understand what freedom means to me.

If I look back in my own life, freedom was choosing to study Humanities/Arts when all my well-wishers wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer. Freedom was deciding to marry my cousin when others were proposing alternatives. Freedom was deciding to adopt a baby girl, and not a boy. While all these were decisions of importance, Freedom also was declaring that now that I am in a house of my own, i will not force myself to eat everything & clean my plate, as was expected in my father’s house. Rather petulantly I declared I will “waste” food & not force myself to eat all. Not showing obeisance to elders, refusal to touch their feet as expected in Indian society; Wearing dark shirts and light color trousers, when everyone went for the other way round, all were an expression of freedom. Wearing crumpled clothes & hair very, very short was freedom. Every rebellious act could be a statement of freedom. One followed Robert Frost in letter and spirit who said,” Freedom lies in being Bold”.

To me 3 names come to mind when I think of Freedom. Krishna, Savarkar & Mandela. Let me explain. Mythologically, the story of Krishna is a classic mix of freedom and free will. We are all aware of the events and activities surrounding Krishna’s birth in prison, Vasudeva carrying him out on that fateful night of torrential rain, Krishna being brought up by Nanda and Yoshoda. As Krishna started growing up his divine/free will started exerting and the actions that he took…killing of Puthana, Trinavrata and Bakasur all show actions taken to rid the surroundings of nefarious demons who were making the life of the common people difficult. Krishna’s role on Mahabharata & the expounding of the Bhagwat Geeta give us the importance of decisive action in life. The entire concept of Krishna Leela is a classic example of freedom of will & acting to ensure greatest good of the maximum number. The mythological stories of Krishna or Vishnu or Ram all underline the importance of doing the right thing and following the dictates of the heart, boldly and free of any restrictions.

Talk of Freedom, and to every Maharashtrian, the one name which shines the brightest is that of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Savarkar’s iconic escape from the ship, which was carrying him back to India, while it was docked at Marseilles is a story often repeated when people talk of the love for freedom. His incarceration at the Cellular Jail (Kaala Pani) in the Andamans physically imprisoned him, but most of his time was spent writing books, essays, novels and poetry which were nationalistic in fervor and urged all Hindus to agitate for freedom. Freedom was his first love and literally he laid his life down for freedom of thought and expression. To me George Orwell’s words ring truest when we think of Savarkar’s contribution,” If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. The clarion call of Savarkar rings loud and clear even now.

Historically Nelson Mandela is the 3rd person who comes to my mind when we talk of freedom of action & thought. This champion of Freedom, just like the other 2 we referred to above, spent a large part of his life in prison. Having been born in the Royal family of Thembu, trained as a lawyer, Mandela got into ANC early to oppose apartheid. He flirted with communism, was arrested many times for sedition. He negotiated an end to apartheid and paved the way to the first Multi Cultural General Election after which he served as the 1st President of South Africa in 1994. Mandela believed and professed that “Freedom is something that dies unless it is used” (Hunter Thompson). Under his government, South Africa made great strides in reconciliation between country’s multiple racial groups. Revenge was eschewed and people were free to profess & live with their differences. The secret to Happiness is Freedom. The secret to Freedom is Courage. Mandela taught this truth to a hurting nation.

So what does Freedom mean to me? Freedom is being what you are without having to seek anybody’s permission. Accepting yourself as you are. Accepting others as they are. And no one makes an effort to change the other. Let everyone be. Respect and encourage diversity. As Hans Christian Anderson taught us through the Fairy Tales we all loved and grew up with,” Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower”. Virginia Woolf says the same thing less romantically in A Room of One’s Own ,” Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind”

Take inspiration then from Independence, & be a Zealous Warrior to guard Freedom : vikas

13 Replies to “What Freedom Means to Me”

  1. Vikas, another well written blog on what freedom means to you along with 3 relevant examples and several quotes from literature. We can exercise freedom only when we grow enough to start knowing what is freedom? Till that time we are a gift of god to our parents who are part of their parents’ family.

    Your family and economic background and the rules of this world also decide how much freedom you can have. Without rules there will be chaos. And even then, in one’s own sphere influence as you say, he/she should use freedom of choice. Best part of such behavior is that you don’t blame others if things go wrong and are ready to face consequences with smile. Thanks once again for provocative and out of the box thinking which many do use today.


  2. Dear Vikas,

    So personal, candid and reflective as one expects from you. And thought provoking. Thank you for the inspiration and the challenge every time you share. Several years back, when the Danish cartoonists were killed because of a caricature or when there was a fatwa issued on Salman Rushdie, I thought of what freedom meant and not that I have a definitive answer but one dimension of freedom that also stood out for me was ” Freedom for me is my ability to make choices for myself even as I respect the boundaries and not intrude into spaces of others” This keeps coming back to me again and again and not sure where I finally stand on this.


    1. VJ
      great def of freedom
      it i indeed about own choices and respecting those of others so you give them also freedom
      if you try to force only one view….yours or theirs….freedom is out of the window
      That is why…though I also hate Aamir Khan for being anti national ( “I and my wife are afraid to live in India”) and feel ashamed to see videos’ where he is THE ONLY one on AB’s show who does not salute a lady officer and then to add insult to injury the guy has the gumption to say again on TV that he does not remember if there was a salute in that episode ( when actually entire audience & Amitabh all are saluting) I still draw a line to the movie boycott
      The movie is a common effort of a large team and the content has little which is objectionable ( except Aamir looking stupid and unbelievable as an army officer) So why throw the baby with the bathwater
      The same populace which has made SRK and Salman & Saif & AAmir super heroes are today discovering their muslim roots.
      Unfortutaely in toda’s times all things/issues are getting polarized
      and so I grieve the lack of freedom for open expression and listening to the others’ POV with respect

      Into that Freedom, my Father, Let my country awake

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi VS:

    Great thoughts on a very topical subject!!

    as i was going through your write up ,some random thoughts crossed my mind ..which i am penning below:

    Is there anything like absolute freedom?

    Can I be totally inconsiderate to the feelings of others, at least of those whom I love?

    Can I do something in the name of freedom which is to the total dislike of my wife ..or my son?

    Well, I can do it..but will I be happy after doing that?

    Am I prepared to live with the consequences of my actions?

    I think the word “independent” has been used or overused without defining what it is really meant to convey.

    As the cliché goes: “a man is a social animal”

    He needs company , he needs someone to interact with, he needs others to fulfil a variety of needs ..even if we were to restrict those needs to the very basics

    So he needs others…he is dependent..in this sense…whether one likes it or not!

    In my opinion, finally it boils down to the proportion or the extent to which one can take decisions ONLY to one’s own liking.

    India is independent. Are we ,however, able to take ALL decisions as we like?

    How about the recent Nupur Sharma case where the influence of the middle east nations was evident in the way the GOI reacted?

    Does this mean that we are not Independent?

    To me ,there will always be some areas of external influence. In majority of situations, however, because we are independent , we are able to take decisions in our national interest.

    We no longer have to send raw cotton to England ,for their mills to prosper and reexport finished textiles for our consumption at exorbitant prices

    We no longer have to pay taxes for the benefit of the British

    We no longer have to take their permission to develop our infrastructure

    This is what the Independence means…a ‘major’ part of our decision making is decided by our freewill .

    The same is true at an individual level. The question is of the extent and not of absolute!!


    1. JLS
      very pertinent points
      Indeed no freedom can be without restrictions and constraints. I am free to drive, but I cannot drive on the wrong side of the road, must restrict the freedom and follow traffic signals etc. Abs freedom, or perfect free will, is only a concept. The constraints of society and family and all the other restrictions will always “bind” your freedom and you can do what you want….within the restricted solution set. I recollect a quote from Jean paul Sartre,” Freedom is what you do, with what has been done to you”

      Only a new born is “free”. As soon as he is given a name, a religion, a belief system and and and…his freedom is progressively being proscribed. We accept that as natural. And still despite all the binding restrictions we feel we are free. To my Union friends I used to always tell, dont think senior leaders can do what they want. as they rise in the hierarchy their freedom is getting more and more restricted…they are never free to do anything they want, they are enmeshed in a net of precedence, rules, constraints and restrictions. Indeed man is born free but everywhere he is in chains as Voltaire reminds us.

      AS re definition of Independent, Nikhil Bhai( ex-Cibatu)l made a great point to me on WA. Independent is In_Dependent. Much like the motivational blurb Impossible is I’m Possible !! Independence and dependence is movinggoal post. Each one of us in every situation, in every relationship has to find where the line is drawn. And curiously as we become more and more independent, the more dependent we are!!!! This is the conundrum of life.

      Thanks JLS for writing in and enabling the readers to think more about the topic


  4. Very nice article sir. I think freedom is very near to all of us but we look afar to be free. We have our own defination of freedom. But what we call our freedom or freedom to act may be influenced by thoughts which may not be our own and may have come through some other influences. To deny one concept we choose the polar opposite and call it our freedom. I will quote Ravindranath Tagore here,
    Many miles I have roamed, over many a days,
    From This land to that, ready for the price to pay,
    Mountain ranges and ocean too, lay in my way.
    Yet two steps from my door, with wide open eyes,
    I did not see the dewdrop on a single sheaf of rice.


    1. HCP
      yes we are often bipolar in our thinking and actions.
      we swing as we do not really know or have a defined position.
      Your quote of Guruji exemplifies this very well. Thanks for sharing a great thought which forces you to think.


    1. Dear Vikas,
      Thanks for sending your blogs
      Which are very thought provoking and enabling to understand fineris of human mind. Hope you and your family are happy and healthy Kind regards
      Shall meet some day when


    2. SSO
      you said it
      as our Constitution and the Law shows our our Fundamental Rights are also subject to reasonable restraints.
      the price of societal living is responsible free will.


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